The Short Story Series were originally published on Through Frog Eyes as a collaborative effort between a guest photographer and my writing. I am relaunching the stories individually for all those who are new to the website and Marie Balustrade´s writing. The ED Series features guest photographer Edna Dott from the USA. Click HERE for the full set.
Marianne opened her eyes slowly, savoring the warmth of the his breath on her shoulder, and the tightness of his embrace around her waist, even though he continued to sleep soundly. Dawn was just breaking over the ocean’s horizon and she could see the crack of light hesitantly peeking through the darkness. The lace curtains swayed gently to the morning breeze, nudging the rose petals aside. The movement reminded her of scarlet sighs somehow, a symbol of both her youth and passion, something that dissipated with each broken heart, every failed relationship, and the sound of broken dreams within her soul.
It was March 20,1944, the world was at war, and for Marianne and Jerome it had been a night full of emotions that carried them from one extreme to another, beginning with a romantic picnic on the beach at sunset. Jerome had stretched out his hand towards her hair after pouring the wine, caressing her earlobe as she served the food onto the plates. They had set aside time for each other for this weekend date weeks ago, knowing that the days and months ahead would be turbulent. The beach had always been a special place where they felt at home, a source of strength and peace, and the one spot their souls always knew the waters would lead the way for the hopes and dreams of a world without war. Somewhere between the friend chicken and apple pie Jerome broached the subject of commitment and building a future together. Not wanting to choke on her food, Marianne put the plate down gently, wiped her mouth slowly, and faced him.
“Jerome, we have been over this before. You know what we are both up against here. Between your departure for Europe with the army and my father’s insistence that I marry someone of my own faith, we don’t stand a chance until I am over 21, and even then there are no guarantees.”
“OK, I accept the point about the army, and that is indeed a huge point against our relationship, but I cannot accept the fact that you will not stand up to your father and fight for us.”
“Even if I did stand up to him, I face expulsion from the home, with the likelihood of never being allowed near my family ever again, just like my sister. My mother barely survived the first time, she would crumble if she lost me as well, her last remaining anchor. I can live without ever speaking to my father again, you know that, but my mother is something else. I will not give her up.”
“So what you are telling me is that it is your mother or me…”
“Don’t over-simplify things Jerome. It is anything but a simple choice for me, for us. No matter which way I go I remain a prisoner of circumstance and stand to lose someone I cannot live without. We are the wanderers two, you and I, the proverbial star crossed lovers that were never meant to me but are.”
“If only you hadn’t been so nice to me at the hospital…”
“Would you have preferred that I left you alone to rot in a corner with your misery and drown in depression?”
“Considering that you are not willing to commit to me or our love, yes.” and he dropped his hand sorrowfully to the side, turned away, and buried his head in the palms of his hands. Only the shaking of his shoulders betrayed his emotions, and Marianne felt like the ultimate traitor, and was scare to even touch the one man she loved more than anyone else.
She gave him his space, and did not attempt to hold him back when he stood up, shoved his hands in his pockets, and walked into the water. He was a competitive swimmer and a celebrated regional champion so she knew he could not drown. Like her, he needed to be in the water to think.
The light drizzle turned into a veritable downpour, bringing the picnic to an abrupt end. Marianne grabbed all four corners of the blanket with one hand and ran towards the cabin. Jerome joined her a few minutes later, looking a little less morose than when he had ventured into the water. He stripped his trunks off, put the kettle on the stove for some tea, and wandered towards the window to watch the rain. Marianne sat quietly at the small kitchen table, committing to memory the exquisitely perfect silhouette of this man completely free of clothing. The admiration took her breath away, and she realized that their loneliness and heartache had some fill with each good rain. She walked towards him, stripping off her clothing with each step, and by the time she stood behind him and placed her around his waist, there was a hunger combined with tenderness that needed no words.
The temperature outside dropped significantly but the cabin was on fire indoors. The window fogged up and by the time they caught their breath again, Jerome grinned , took Marianne’s hand in his, and with her index finger drew on the pane. She looked up at him with the languid smile that only comes with afterglow and nodded, “Yes indeed, we heart the rain.”
“To hell with the war and the family!” he shouted and picked her and carried her over to the sofa.
Marianne opened her eyes and allowed the tears to flow freely. Every year on March 20th for the last 71 years she returned to the cabin to celebrate that moment with Jerome. It was the last time she ever saw him. The shores of Normandy claimed his life on June 6th later that year and instead of a June bride, she became a summer loner with birds.